How to Stop Puppy Biting Fast

This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.

Puppy biting is one of the most common and frustrating puppy issues. Although it is a totally natural process, many dog owners are a bit overwhelmed by their puppy’s behavior and often ask if heavy biting is already aggression.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The former is that puppy biting is normal, the second being that puppy biting is normal.

You probably have to sit this phase-out while you keep improving your bond with your dog and guide him to adulthood.

But sitting this out doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and watch him bite you or others. There are some easy steps you can follow to make sure your dog learns the appropriate behavior.

Why Do Puppies Bite?

Mouthing, chewing, and biting are natural ways for puppies to explore, taste and experience their environment. Everything they see gets into their mouth. This can escalate quickly when puppies eat stones.

There are three main reasons why puppies bite stuff and it almost never has to do with aggression (more on that below):

  1. Gathering information (texture and taste)
  2. Teething
  3. Play-biting (this is where they learn bite inhibition)

The sharp little teeth puppies have helps them learn a crucial lesson during the early socialization process. Puppies who spend 8 weeks with their mother and littermates are taught the so-called bite inhibition.

In this process, they will learn to adjust their biting behavior and the force they apply with their jaws to appropriate levels.

Puppies have tough skin so they are used to playing a bit rough with their brothers and sisters. When they play with each other and biting becomes too rough one will start to yelp. This is a form of feedback they get and is essential for their development.

In order to receive feedback, they need those sharp teeth because their jaws are not strong enough yet. Through bite inhibition training they learn what to bite and how strong to bite.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

White puppy chewing on a toy.
Photo by Daniel Bendig

When you bring your new puppy home, you now have the responsibility to continue with the feedback the littermates and the mother gave.

Many trainers believe that you should just imitate the sound of a little puppy screaming from pain but I personally believe that you as a human can never fully imitate canine behavior. Your puppy will probably just be confused, assuming you would be able to create a sound even close to a puppy yelping.

I’m laying out my personal method to handle puppy biting below. You will have to be patient and consistent with bite inhibition but it will pay off and your dog will be a well-adjusted canine citizen.

No Biting Tolerated

Petting your puppy almost always includes mouthing and biting. The goal here is to teach your puppy that nipping on human clothes and skin is not tolerated.

Now, let’s say you’re playing with your puppy and he starts biting too hard.

It is important not to pull your hands or clothes away as a reflex. Fast movements reinforce your dog to chase your hand and that will probably make it worse. Instead, you should:

  1. Leave your hand right there and say a clear “ouch” (in a yelping voice if you desire so) until your puppy stops biting.
  2. Praise him for letting go and continue playing or petting.
  3. If you have a rough play biter that won’t stop nipping on you, simply stand up and ignore your puppy for a few seconds or leave the room.

Time outs are a very effective way to stop puppy biting as young dogs love to interact and play with their owner. If you suddenly stand up and leave the room after he bit you, he will definitely remember that. Once he is calm and gentle, you will enter the room again.

Redirecting

The goal of redirecting is teaching your puppy that mouthing on toys is okay but not on skin.

You should also teach him that clothes are a no go. When he starts play biting, engage with him in a game of tug to redirect his attention on the toy and not your hand.

If playing gets too rough, you will simply stop just like before. Another way to distract him from chewing is by teaching him the command “let go”. This will bring structure into your game, teach him impulse control and stops undesired behavior.

If your puppy also goes for your ankles, redirecting him works just great.

When he starts biting your feet, stop right there in your movement and tell him a firm “no” or use the same yelping voice you used before. Once he has stopped, grab his favorite toy and play with him as a reward.

Gentle Treats

We want to really teach him how he should interact with our hands while playing or petting.

For this method, you will grab a bunch of small treats and place them between your index finger and thumb. When you start feeding them to your puppy you should pay attention to how he grabs them. If he bites too hard on your hand you will stop feeding him.

Leave them a bit longer between your fingers to see if he just tries to lick them out of your hand or if he uses his teeth.

Getting Rid of Excess Energy

If all of these tips don’t seem to work it is probably because your puppy is not exercised enough. I am not only talking about going for walks but also a lack of mental stimulation that can encourage biting behavior.

You should also consider attending puppy classes which are very important for his socialization. Puppies are the best teachers when it comes to play-biting and yours will love the play and interaction.

I have visited puppy classes since my dog was 9 weeks old and we still go to play classes twice a week. There is nothing better for a dog than playing with other dogs in a safe and controlled environment (not like the dog park).

Puppy Teething

Like babies, puppies lose their teeth and that’s why their gums can be irritated and itchy.

Providing your puppy with safe chew toys is the key to relieving that urge. I personally use the Kong for Puppies and the Nylabone Chew Toy.

High energy dog breeds are more likely to chew, so getting that energy out in the morning and throughout the day is mandatory. Puppy-proof your home, so he won’t chew on cords or an expensive rug or swallow harming things.

Things to Avoid

There are certain situations where you set yourself up for failure in regards to puppy biting:

  • Avoid fiddling your hands in your dog’s face or grabbing his head between your hands for fun. This will only encourage him to bite.
  • As I said before, avoid quick movements or pulling your hands away when he mouths on them.
  • Do not play too rough with your puppy. This could potentially damage his little teeth and will encourage rough playing.
  • We do not want to discourage the puppy to play at all. It is your responsibility to show him how to play in a gentle manner.
  • Do not lose your patience and yell at him. Raising your voice does no good.
  • Never hit or kick your puppy for biting you. He is not showing dominance or aggression towards you and physical punishment will make him afraid of you which might cause real biting.

Puppy Keeps Biting Kids

If your puppy keeps nipping your kids, you should teach your pup bite inhibition in addition to teaching your child how to stay calm and redirect your puppy.

Biting is totally normal and so is the instinctive reaction of kids to pull away.

However, it’s important to teach both how to treat each other and to get your kid involved in the dog training in order to make sure that your dog listens to everybody.

When Play Biting Becomes Serious

Play and puppy biting is perfectly normal in most cases and doesn’t mean that your dog is showing any signs of aggression at all.

You just have to observe your dog’s body language as well as his vocalization to cross aggression out of your list.

When your pup is play-biting, he looks really clumsy with a relaxed body posture and no determination to harm you at all. It occurs when playing or petting the head, for example.

Early signs of aggression that mostly occurs in adulthood (hopefully never with the right training) can include your puppy biting significantly stronger than usual. His body is tense and he shows you his teeth and growls at you but beware of the difference between play-growling vs. threatening growling.

If this happens during a normal play session and he doesn’t experience any pain or something else that might have startled him, you might have a problem. Just to rule out any medical issues, you should visit a vet and get your dog checked out regardless.

If you then try your yelping sound, it will only encourage his aggressive behavior. Instead, do not show any emotions and do not back up from your puppy because that is showing him that you are afraid and fearful which is prey behavior.

If you can, you should firmly hold him still without hurting him until he has calmed down. After that, you should consult a professional to specify the problem and to avoid any further aggression.

My Rottweiler chewed and mouthed for maybe a couple of weeks and then simply stopped after we calmly showed her what to bite and what not to bite.

She’s around 2 years old now and biting was never a problem. Even during the most intense play session, she’s still so mindful and will never catch your arm or even finger by accident.

Let me know in the comments what helped you to get rid of puppy biting.

Pin This:

Danielle
In love with dogs, their behavior and psychology. I am writing on this blog since February 2019 to provide you with valuable information on everything dogs. When I am not working on my blog, I study research articles and enjoy the time with my beloved Rottweiler Amalia.

13 thoughts on “How to Stop Puppy Biting Fast”

  1. Hi Danielle,
    Here’s a method I use called the shake the can method to stop a dog from biting. The idea is to make a noise that will start and catch their attention, to stop them from biting then let them associate that noise with stopping.

    Reply
  2. I think I might have a potential problem with my Golden Retriever puppy… I’ve in the past had adult rescue Goldens who have been typical loving dogs.

    Puppies are new to me…. SHERMAN is showing aggressive behavior pup is 14 weeks old…
    My husband and I decided on a puppy after our Martin died…. But it has turned out very different.

    SHERMAN is VERY strong and I’m not.he, recently launches himself at us. Comes in play biting which with me turns into aggression and from what I’ve read here I’ve done everything wrong
    Unfortunately due to covid19 we are,unable to bring in a professional

    Any ideas?

    .

    Reply
    • Hey Patricia,

      your pup Sherman might just be going through his natural puppy biting phase and your feelings could cloud your judgment – there’s a surprise element at play here because you never had a puppy. He just needs you to guide him into adulthood.

      Your pup displaying “aggression” is highly unlikely. There’s a certain age at which a dog can be aggressive and puppies are far from that age. At 3 1/2 months they might test boundaries, might try certain behaviors etc. but never full-blown aggression. Don’t worry, if you’re not encouraging his biting, it will stop. However, if you do (unconsciously even) encourage this undesired behavior, he might just continue it into adolescence. Right now, it shouldn’t be a problem (your 3 month-old Goldie pup really shouldn’t be strong enough to overwhelm you, maybe you view the situation with too much emotion and you need a new perspective on this?).

      What have you tried doing and how did it go? I’m sure we can find something that’ll do the trick.

      Even during quarantine, remember to properly socialize your dog – it doesn’t have to be direct interactions (although desirable) but seeing new places/textures/dogs/humans is very important. Be sure to check out my article on puppy socialization.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
  3. Hello! These are fantastic guidelines for me. I just got a chihuahua puppy. I was told she was 4 weeks old and had to go for unknown reasons. In hindsight, I believe the people needed money. In any case, when I took her to the vet for her 6 week shots 2 weeks later, I was told she was too young and maybe 4 weeks at that point. When I got her I did get puppy formula, but she quickly adapted to wet food even though she was not weaned. She’s doing great and growing. Very smart. But… the play biting that was cute when she had no teeth has begun to hurt. So now I need to redirect her. Apparently she did not learn about gentle biting from her mom and litter mates? Thanks again for the great information!
    Lori (& Paisley)

    Reply
    • Hey Lori,

      if your “breeder” told you that the puppy was 4 weeks when you got her and the vet assumed she was around that age two weeks later, that’d mean you got your pup Paisley with approx. 2 weeks, is that right? Even if your pup was 4 or 5 weeks, that is way too early.

      You could’ve checked out my post on questions to ask your breeder. Doesn’t matter if this was a rescue or a breeder – puppies never (!) just have to go. If something happens with the mother not caring for her puppies, then preparations have to be in place for that. Paisley couldn’t learn any bite inhibition because she was far too young for that (besides the fact that her mother probably wasn’t in the best shape to begin with).

      Make sure to be persistent with her socialization as this will be very crucial to get a well-adjusted dog later on.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!
      Danielle

      Reply
        • Hi Lori,

          that’s great to hear! A lot can be done with proper training, glad you’ve been able to guide your pooch.

          Cheers,
          Danielle

          Reply
  4. Hello, I have a pup that likes to show his affection with (what he considers) gentle nibbles along with licking and excitement. It’s not play bitting or aggressive, just nibbles of affection. I know he doesn’t mean any harm, but his little teeth are sharp.
    How should we discourage the nibbling?
    Would you recommend saying a clear “ouch” (in a yelping voice if you desire so) until the puppy stops? I don’t want him thinking that it’s not allowed to show affection. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi John,

      I’d always differentiate between real nibbling (=grooming) and nibbling that actually breaks skin or when your pup’s going after you even though you pull away. You can read up more about love bites & nibbling here.

      Even with regular play biting, the puppies almost never mean any harm and yet they do harm if they don’t learn bite inhibition by the time they’re an adult. It always depends on what you’re comfortable with (keep in mind that he might treat strangers the same way, then it should definitely be discouraged). If you’re not fine with it, yelling “ouch” will most probably do the trick, along with time-outs if necessary.

      My 100lbs adult Rottie nibbles on occassion but it’s super softly and only with us, so I’m totally fine with that.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply

Leave a Comment